I felt my heart racing, my lungs begging for more oxygen, my feet hurting with every step and my brain screaming at me “Are we close? What were you thinking, bringing yourself all the way up here when you’ve never hiked a day in your life?” Though I had a smile on my face, I was starting to regret hiking 1200 meters up from the small town of Juntas, Ibague, in the center of Colombia. I never thought the hike would be so steep, but here I was, out of breath, watching the rest of my family continue without a problem. Suddenly, I heard dogs barking, and my uncle turned to me and said the best words I possibly could’ve heard at that moment: “We’re here.”
â–º SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
I looked above me and saw a garden full of flowers, of all species and colors, mountains rising behind them, and an adorable wooden lodge perched up on a rising slope. We had arrived at Ukuku Rural Lodge, an eco-touristic retreat located only a mere 11 miles from the Nevado Del Tolima, a snow-tipped volcano. From our location, one could see the volcano clearly but unfortunately, we had arrived too late. The shy volcano only shows itself at dawn and dusk. I didn’t have time to get upset over that, because I was too busy taking in the view. For someone who lives in the city, hearing cars honking and police sirens blaring by, I was taken aback by the quiet chirping from birds, the buzzing from unseen insects, and the rushing water coming from below belonging to the River Combeima. This, I thought, is what peace must sound like.
Once we had gotten a tour of the lodge, fully equipped with handmade wooden bunk beds, tables and chairs, I whipped out my camera and thus, began a series of what seemed like a never-ending-picture-taking session. Everywhere I turned, something had to be memorialized, so I could relive this experience back home in Florida. An orchid here, a butterfly there and of course, the landscape in front me, an infinite array of green, with a cloudless blue sky posing above.
There were a few things I wish I could take back home, such as the cool breeze brushing my hair silently, the pollution-free air I was inhaling and the sounds of country wildlife around me. From the cows mooing in the distance, to the cock-a-doodle-do of a nearby rooster and the purrs of a stray cat that had taken a liking towards me, I would miss these sounds the most. The sounds people don’t hear in the city, sounds that Americans like me don’t associate with Colombia due its infamous popularity. People don’t realize that the drug trade and kidnapping that happens in Colombia is just a tiny part of its people and culture. Colombia is a beautiful country, with jaw-dropping touristic attractions, friendly people who are willing to welcome anyone to their home and rich culture. This wasn’t a luxurious vacation, instead the complete opposite. We got dirty, we sweated, and at one point I wanted to come back home. But in the end, the indescribable feeling of nature surrounding you, the peace and serenity that engulfs you, making you wish you never had to leave the mountains makes the trip absolutely worth it.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.